STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — The U.S. Marshals Service is searching for a Virginia mother accused of abducting her four kids over the summer.

According to U.S. Marshals, Melody Bannister, 34, and her four kids were last seen on Aug. 20, 2019, in Moulton, Alabama.

The kids were identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13, Janelle Bannister, 12, Vivienne Bannister, 11, and Peter Bannister, 7.

According to U.S. Marshals and Stafford County law enforcement, the investigation began back in June 2019 when the mother told deputies her four children were being abused by a family member.

Authorities said a joint investigation revealed the allegations weren't founded. Shortly after, they said the mom left Virginia on June 14 with her children on a planned vacation and never returned.

In July 2019, the children's father petitioned the Stafford County Juvenile Domestic and Relations Court for custody of the children. The courts granted the request and ordered the mother to return the children -- petitioning courts in Alabama.

Authorities said the mother then left the state of Alabama with the children and hasn't been seen since.

U.S. Marshals worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop information over the past few months, saying the five were potentially spotted in Knoxville and Maryville, Tennessee in recent months. They also were possibly spotted in:

  • Birmingham, Alabama 
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Shell Lake, Wisconsin 
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Spooner, Wisconsin
  • Lexington, Kentucky
  • Leadville, Colorado
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Aransas Pass, Texas
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Corpus Christie, Texas

The five were originally traveling with a white Great Pyrenees dog and a white ragdoll cat, according to NCMEC. 

Melody Bannister is charged with violation of a court order, four misdemeanor charges of abduction, and one charge of filing a false police report.

Anyone with information is asked to call U.S. Marshals at 1-877-926-8332.